Effective Communication Skills

Image courtesy of Ambro/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Ambro/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Communication. You hear that word constantly these days whether it is in wireless communication, digital communication, business communication or interpersonal communication. But what does it mean?

Human beings are a cooperative species. Our very survival depends upon our ability to make our wants and needs known to others of our species. The way we express ourselves verbally and non-verbally to make ourselves understood to others is what we call communication. And as you can see from the first paragraph, there are many varieties.

However, none of those varieties will make much sense if essential communication skills are not in place. After all, communication helps us understand another person or situation. It is what we use to share ideas, beliefs, affection, and creativeness. It is how we build relationships, establish trust, problem solve, and exchange information.

The sharing of a common language is only one means of communicating. Effective communication transcends language. Within verbal communication, the intonation of the voice, the words selected, and the pace and volume in which they are spoken all must be considered. This is all further affected by the emotion or lack there of that is placed on the chosen words.

Another side of the communication scenario has to do with how well we listen. The Greek philosopher Epictetus once said, “We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.” With effective listening, not only are we trying to hear the words the other person is saying, but understand what ideas they are trying to convey. Too often, people are only waiting for the other person to stop talking, so they could redirect the conversation to say what is on their mind. But are we truly listening?

Non-verbal cues, such as body language should not be overlooked as they communicate volumes. Eye contact, posture, proximity, facial expressions, hand gestures, and amount of physical contact all must be taken into consideration. Often these cues will tell you more about what a person is feeling faster than by their words alone.

There are thousands of books available as well as websites and classes to help one become an effective communicator. Helpguide.org offers several tips on verbal, non-verbal, and listening communication skills, as well as emotional awareness. Forbes online discusses leadership and workplace communication skills. While Psychology Today points out some simple, key points that work with any interpersonal communication. Coursera offers a free eight-week MOOC (massive open online course) presented by the University of Amsterdam titled Introduction to Communication Science should you want to delve into the subject of communication in depth.

Of course, this only scratches the surface as to the amount of material that is available should you want to sharpen your communication skills. Keep in mind building effective communication skills takes practice. One could spend a lifetime seeking how to become a better communicator. However if you keep in mind that no matter what interaction exists between two or more people, if an environment is created where all participants feel secure enough to share thoughts, feelings, and/or ideas, then you know you are on the right track.

Written by Marlene Martzke for English Classes by Skype

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